Thursday, April 05, 2007


How to Choose a Flat-Fee MLS Broker

Listing your property on the Multiple Listing Service (MLS) gets you on Realtor.com, a national website that gets over 6 million visitors per month, and assures buyers’ agents that you will “cooperate” (pay them a commission) if they bring you a buyer who closes escrow.

In the past, you had to list your property with a full-service listing agent in order to get on the MLS, but no more. It’s now possible to get an MLS listing for a low flat fee. Here are the terms you should insist on from your flat-fee broker:

1. An Open Listing or an Exclusive Agency Listing with a cancellation clause

Both of these contracts allow you to find a buyer on your own without paying a commission. You can revoke an Open Listing Agreement at any time. Adding a cancellation clause to an Exclusive Agency Listing also allows you to get out of it whenever you want.

2. A contract signed by the flat-fee broker promising to forward all buyer inquiries to you

The Realtor Associations who manage the MLSs won’t allow sellers’ names and phone numbers to be displayed on Realtor.com or other public websites. Buyers are only allowed to see the flat-fee broker’s contact information. Some flat-fee brokers take advantage of this--when they get inquiries, they offer to show the home to the buyer in order to capture the buyer’s agent’s commission for themselves. Don’t let that happen--it could cost you thousands of dollars.

3. Posting on the proper MLS

Make sure your flat-fee broker promises to put your listing on the appropriate MLS for your county or region. If a broker lists you on an out-of-area MLS, you’ll get very few responses from local buyers’ agents.

4. The ability to rent a SUPRA electronic lockbox

Licensed agents have special keys that allow them to open these lockboxes to get keys to homes that are on the market. Many flat-fee brokers don’t carry these lockboxes, and you can only rent them from the broker who lists your property. If you use a combination lockbox from a hardware store, you'll find yourself repeatedly giving out the combination over the phone without being able to verify that the caller is indeed an agent.

5. Assurance that your listing will appear on secondary MLS real estate websites

Getting on these websites increases your home’s exposure.

6. The ability to make changes to your listing

Flat-fee brokers usually allow this, but some charge a fee for each change. You should be able to request up to five changes without paying a fee.

7. A Comparative Market Analysis

A CMA gives detailed information about comparable homes that have sold in recent months. It can be a useful tool for establishing an asking price.

8. Willingness to post multiple photos

Most flat-fee brokers will NOT post multiple photos on Realtor.com, since doing so is prohibitively expensive. But make sure your MLS broker is willing to post multiple photos on secondary websites. By the way, a trick for getting multiple photos onto Realtor.com is to order a virtual tour package. For less than $200, many virtual tour providers will create an "e-gallery" with a virtual tour and still photos that can be accessed by clicking a “spinning red house” icon on your Realtor.com web page.

Lori - Excellent article. My wife Denise and I own - Greater Michigan Realty - the largest flat fee mls real estate company in Michigan and in fact, implement almost all the advertised programs on the internet for Michigan.

I really enjoyed you bullet points. I would add the following details.

2. This is critical. Make sure that all Flat Fee companies forward ALL inquiries directly to you.

3. It you are not in your local MLS, this program is a waste of money.

4. Very region specific. This is not necessarily true for the USA.

5. This is NOT controlled by the Flat Fee Real Estate company, this is controlled by the MLS and how it treats Exclusive Agency agreements. Eventhough you can not control this, it is good to understand the impact of this.

7. Extra services like this are often charged for in an ala carte manner.

8. Excellent suggestion on the virtual tour. Many Flat Fee real estate companies that are in the business full time will offer extra photos and custom descriptions on Realtor.com for a reasonable price - often less than the virtual tour. By NOT being a SHOWCASE realtor with Realtor.com, this might be a good indication that you are not dealing with a serious Flat Fee Real Estate company. Move on, there are more out there.

Lastly, customers should ask or email the flat fee company/website and inquire if they are an actual real estate company in the state the customer is looking? Many of the internet website are advertising companies that have a network of brokers that implement the programs on their behalf. Often, with just a litte more searching, the home seller can find the actual Flat Fee Real Estate company and go direct. Usually you will get more specific answers to how the programs work in the home sellers specific state.

Thank you,

Gary Moody
So far my fla fee mls broker has been kind.


I have received all of what you stated and more like unlimited access not 6 months. Yes and the right MLS witch in Long Island is MLSLI. Yes I got free call forwarding so # 2 was a check. # 3 Check. No extra charges almost there. good job thanks guys they passed...lol
We used eClosed.com in San Diego and were very happy with the service. They did not charge for changes and forward all buyer calls and gave us unlimited market time. I agree with the what is stated, don't pay for changes etc.
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Could add one more:
9. Make sure your flat fee broker is licensed. If you don't know how, see how to verify a license.
One place to find flat fee realtors is on www.BetterHomeSelling.com
Note that mlsisland.com only gives you a "basic" listing on realtor.com. So you get 1 picture, but more importantly, no custom text. The text in the ad will just be generic info like lot size and BRs. So you can't really do anything from a marketing perspective. The worst part is that there is no option for upgrading.
I used forsalebyowner.com fo rthe flat fee listing. My house sold in 3 months. It never would have sold if it was not on MLS. It sold in a bad market, inthe dead on winter. It was also posted on this site with free FSBO listings (It's the Pottstown property).
It is important to make sure your flat fee mls broker does not have hidden fees and is advertising everwhere they say. Always read the listing agreement. eMarketRealty.net
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Make sure that you get an ENHANCED listing on realtor.com. Some services, such as mlsisland.com, only provide a basic service, which is almost useless. An enhanced listing allows you to customize the test and post more than 1 photo. Realtor.com is the most used site for finding real estate, so what you put on there is well worth the extra $100 or so you may pay for an enhanced listing.
Great tips! It is always important to read the small print whenever you enter into any contract. Selling your home is a huge undertaking, remember there are "limited representation" and "full service" options out there now that some Real Estate Professionals have begun to offer that are also a Flat Fee Rate. As a home seller you no longer have to do all the work yourself to save money and just have your home listed in the MLS by a Flat Fee RE Professional. It should be like a menu with prices attached. The RE Pro can identify what the home seller needs and provide just those services.

AFlatFee.com is a directory of Real Estate Professionals offering Flat Fee services.
We are the largest Flat fee company in S.C. In Columbia, we are required to be involved by our MLS in all aspects of the transaction. Currently, they are being sued by the Justice Department. Hilton Head also had an Exclusive Right to sell only. They were sued and it cost them $300,000 in legal fees and they lost. We do a offer a full service or Broker assistance as well for a flat fee. We all want to help the seller save money , but put them at risk without consultation and no commission. That's why I use mechanics, so I don't mess up and hurt myself or others .
Bo Mandel,BIC Real Estate Advocates
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